Navigating Coffee Culture An Expats Guide to Panama

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Welcome expatriates to the vibrant coffee culture of Panama, a place where traditions and customs are deeply ingrained in daily life. Coffee plays a significant role in the local economy and is an essential part of Panamanian identity. With this guide, we aim to provide insights and tips for navigating the local coffee scene, helping expats immerse themselves in Panama's coffee traditions.

Understanding Coffee Origins and Production

Understanding the coffee origins and production in Panama is crucial to grasping the richness of its coffee culture. While some coffee varieties are imported, locally grown beans are of the highest quality. Geography plays a significant role in Panama's coffee production; more than 95% of Panama's coffee is grown in the country's interior, along the Atlantic and Pacific slopes.

The Baru coffee plant, botanically named Coffea arabica var. Burhapsilliae, is indigenous to Panama, and it is the primary coffee variety grown in the country. The coffee plant thrives in ideal climate conditions, where temperatures range from 17°C to 22°C all year round, making it an attractive prospect for coffee farmers.

Coffee plantations and farms in Panama are open to visitors, providing expats with an opportunity to explore the country's interior, learn about coffee farming, and indulge in excellent coffee tasting sessions. Some notable coffee plantations include Finca Deborah, Finca Elida, and Finca La LinConvertida, which offer exceptional coffee varieties that are also exported overseas.

Embracing Favorite Coffee Style Drinks

Coffee styles in Panama are diverse and cater to a wide variety of tastes. Some of the most popular coffee styles drunk in Panama include the Cafe Cumbal, Cappuccino, and Expresso. Here's what you need to know:

Cafe Cumbal: A Traditional Brew

Café Cumbal, also known as Chicha or Panamanian coffee, is a traditional coffee brew favored in Panama. The process involves boiling the coffee with water, sugar, and condensed milk, leading to a caramelized flavor. Café Cumbal is usually served steaming hot and is a perfect treat on chilly evenings.

Cappuccino: An Italian Favorite

The Cappuccino, a popular coffee drink in Italy, is also enjoyed in Panama. This coffee variety consists of Espresso, milk foam, and a veritable dash of steamed milk froth on top of the foam. The Cappuccino is best appreciated with biscotti or small pastries.

Expresso: For Coffee Enthusiasts:

The Expresso, a single shot coffee variety, is a potent coffee drink that delivers a strong caffeine experience. The Espresso is typically served in tiny cups, making it an ideal choice for coffee enthusiasts looking for a quick coffee fix.

Embracing Coffee Drinking Customs and Traditions

Coffee is deeply ingrained in Panamanian culture, forming an essential part of daily life and social interactions. From morning coffee to social gatherings, whether eaten alone or shared with friends, coffee's place is well-established.

Coffee Rituals: An Ethnographic Affair

Coffee rituals in Panama are deeply symbolic and have a rich ethnographic history. For instance, serving guests coffee is a vital part of Panamanian hospitality, emphasizing the host's esteem for the guest. Coffee is often served with pastries, bread rolls, or small cakes, reflecting Panama's love for food and baked goods.

Café Culture: Fostering Connections

Café culture is an inherent part of Panamanian social life. Coffee shops and cafes, popularly known as Cafetales or Cafeterías, serve as meeting places for friends, families, and the business community. The local coffee culture is a gateway to fostering connections and networking through coffee's shared essence.

Coffee Etiquette: Respecting Cultural Sensitivities

It's essential to respect the local coffee etiquette and culture when visiting Panama. This might include accepting coffee when offered, savoring the coffee slowly, and demonstrating gratitude to the host. These customs emphasize hospitality, esteem, and respect, which are integral to Panama's coffee culture.

Expat-Friendly Coffee Shops and Cafes in Panama

There are various coffee shops and cafes in Panama that cater to expats' diverse tastes and preferences. Here are some recommendations:

  • Cafe Tana: Located in the heart of the old area of Panama City, this charming cafe offers a wide selection of baked goods and artisan coffee drinks. Cafe Tana is also a popular meeting place for the expat community.
  • Don Pancho: Don Pancho is a chain of coffee shops that offers an ethereal coffee experience in unique environments across multiple locations in Panama.
  • Seven Coffee Roasters: Located in Boquete, Seven Coffee Roasters offers a personalized coffee experience in its rustic atmosphere, featuring panoramic views of volcano Baru and its surroundings.
  • LaBlueFrog Cafe: Situated in the Volcán Highlands, LaBlueFrog Cafe offers a cozy atmosphere, a wide selection of coffee drinks, and small bites.


Embrace Panama's coffee culture as a gateway to connecting with local communities and experiencing authentic cultural experiences. Coffee's universal language transcends borders, fostering connections among expats and locals alike. Explore each coffee variety, embrace coffee's rich cultural history and etiquettes, and always remain grateful to the host. Come and experience the vibrant coffee culture of Panama, a place where traditions and customs are deeply ingrained in daily life.